Sunday, April 17, 2016

Hint: It's Not For Academic Reasons

Joanne's Friday post about algebra, and whether it should be offered in 8th grade or delayed until 9th grade, is fine:
Educated parents want their kids to take algebra in eighth grade, so they’ll be ready for calculus in 12th grade, writes Jay Mathews in the Washington PostCommon Core is doing a lousy job of explaining why bright students should wait till high school to take algebra.

Private schools aren’t cutting back on eighth-grade algebra, Mathews writes.
Her post avoids what I consider the elephant in the room, and that is that the reason for not offering 8th grade algebra isn't academic at all, it's ideological.  If you don't believe me, I direct your attention to this article from San Francisco (of course), in which a San Francisco district spokesperson refers to forcing kids to wait until 9th grade merely to take algebra is a "social justice issue for SFUSD."

The social justice of which she speaks involves not allowing the brightest students to move ahead at their own pace.  It means closing the achievement gap not by improving the low end, but by retarding the high end.  It is an admission of failure, and it is morally reprehensible.

I addressed that topic here and here, among others.

1 comment:

momof4 said...

As I've said before, NCLB really should be Let No Child Get Ahead - and the current incarnation and CC just make the whole mess worse. There are some holdouts, like the one-HS district my oldest grandkids attend (a very atypical one). In response to years of parent pressure, my 4th-graders were the first or second class to have Singapore Primary Math and they do group, such that one of mine is on track for algebra I in 6th. A Midwestern dad just told me that his oldest will take algebra I in 7th. WITH PROPER PREPARATION, there are plenty of kids who could and should do the same.

It is only in academics that there is the pretense (fantasy) that all kids are equally talented and motivated. Neither athletics nor fine/performing arts make any such attempts; beyond rec level, they sort openly, and by elite level, ruthlessly. Schools increasingly operate on the philosophy that if all kids cannot do X, then no kids will be taught/allowed to do X.

Of course, well-educated and affluent parents homeschool, go private/magnet/charter or afterschool - so their kids get more content and a faster pace. This means that failure to accelerate disproportionately hurts disadvantaged kids, who are dependent on school for all of their education.

Test everyone, very early in ES and group by instructional need, by subject, and let each level go as fast as they can. I cannot see how this would not also increase teacher effectiveness, since teachers would be teaching a much narrower range of ability/preparation. The edworld always says how important teachers are, so why is 10" of the teacher's time, in a mixed class, as good as 50-60" of her time in a homogeneous group? As for advanced students helping slower ones? A great opportunity for frustration and resentment, not to mention forced labor that teachers would never tolerate for themselves.